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Delhi Police today (Monday, Jan 14) filed its chargesheet against former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid, Anirban Bhattacharya and 43 others in Patiala House court, accusing them of sedition and raising anti-national slogans at an event in February 2016.

They have been accused of organising an event on the college campus on the anniversary of the hanging of Parliament-attack mastermind Afzal Guru on Feb 9, 2013. Their arrests then had triggered a huge controversy with the opposition slamming the police for “working at the behest of the ruling BJP”.

The police said there is no direct evidence against 36 other accused, including Communist Party of India leader D Raja’s daughter Aprajita, but they can be summoned for questioning.

Quoting eyewitnesses, the police said Kanhaiya Kumar was seen raising anti-national slogans at the event three years ago, adding they have a video that shows him speaking clearly.

“The investigation was complex as the team also had to visit other states to take statements,” Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik had said last week.

The FIR states that “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised at the event by Kumar and others. The police claims it has relied on “forensic evidence, testimonies of other students, videos from the event and news reports about it,” to arrive at the conclusion that sedition charges can be invoked against the accused.

The others who have been named in the case – Aquip Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayees Rasool, Baccarat Alo and Khalid Bashir Bhat are reportedly residents of Kashmir.

The police had based its case on several videos of the event in the JNU campus that showed such sloganeering. However, a district magistrate’s probe found several videos of the incident to have been doctored.

Kumar was the president of the JNU Students’ Union when the FIR was filed. He, along with Khalid and Bhattacharya, was arrested in connection with the case when the FIR was first filed but all three were later let out on bail.

The controversy over the FIR against Kumar, Khalid and Rashid had thrust the three students to instant stardom of sorts, giving them a youth icon status and making them faces of the resistance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP’s alleged crackdown on dissent, particularly in educational institutions. Protests had also erupted across educational campuses in the country against the persecution of Kumar and his fellow students. Ever since, Kumar and Rashid have been regulars at many public events organized to speak against the alleged tyranny of the Modi government and its efforts to muzzle criticism of any sort.

The filing of the chargesheet months before the Lok Sabha poll campaign is expected to give the Opposition as well as Kumar and his comrades a handle to attack the Modi government for trying to harass critics and opponents.

Kumar has already declared his willingness to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from a constituency in Bihar as an independent candidate supported by the ‘mahagathbandhan’ of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress party and other smaller political outfits in Bihar. It is being speculated that Rashid too could mark her electoral debut from a constituency in Jammu & Kashmir, either in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls or the assembly elections in the state that is currently under President’s Rule and will go to the hustings in April-May.

Kanhaiya Kumar, reacting to the 1,200-page chargesheet, called it “politically motivated”.

“If the news is true that a chargesheet has been filed, I would like to thank police and Modi ji. The filing of chargesheet after three years, ahead of elections, clearly shows it to be politically motivated. I trust the judiciary of my country,” the former student leader said.

Kumar added: “all of these, starting from the Citizenship Amendment Bill to the 10 percent quota act to now this charge, are being brought at the same time to coincide with the election. Why was so much time taken to file a chargesheet for sedition? I can see a complete lack of seriousness on the part of the Narendra Modi-government regarding everything.”

As per news agency ANI, the Delhi Police has filed a voluminous 1200 page chargesheet slapping charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 124A 323, 465, 471,143, 149, 147, 120B, against the former students. The Patiala House Court, where the chargesheet has been filed, is expected to hear the case on Tuesday (January 15).

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